Bernie Sanders Vows to Keep Fighting After Hillary Clinton Wins Key Primaries
As news of Hillary Clinton’s victories in the Democratic primaries rolled in Tuesday evening, Bernie Sanders assured supporters that he would continue using his platform to fight for the transformative change millions of Americans want and need.
“We are going to fight hard to win the primary in Washington, D.C.,” Sanders told supporters in Santa Monica, Calif. “And then we take our fight for social, economic, racial and environmental justice to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania”—scene of next month’s Democratic National Convention.
Some people question the value of the Vermont senator’s decision to stay in the race after Clinton has all but secured the nomination, with many Democrats suggesting that continued criticism of Clinton will hurt the party’s chances of winning the presidency in the general election. Clinton wants Sanders to drop out immediately. On Monday, the former secretary of state told reporters, “Tomorrow is eight years to the day after I withdrew and endorsed then-Sen. Obama. I believed it was the right thing to do.”
But as Rolling Stone writer Tim Dickinson explained Tuesday, Sanders’ motivation for running was never limited to winning the nomination and the presidency; he wants to use every tool at his disposal to empower the effort to wrench the country out of the hands of oligarchs and place it in the safekeeping of ordinary people.
“Clinton’s call for a replay of her 2008 unity ceremony reflects an almost willful misunderstanding of his motivations for running for president,” Dickinson writes. “Clinton is asking Sanders to opt out of a nationally televised airing of the disagreements that have been the driving force of his candidacy—a fight for the heart and soul of the Democratic Party that Sanders has loudly insisted he wants to see play out in Philadelphia.”
In other words, Sanders still has an invaluable shot at establishing social democratic values in the Democratic Party platform and the U.S. government, now and in the future.
As the particulars of the argument against Sanders go, for starters, “This isn’t 2008,” writes Dickinson:
… looking back on the 2008 campaign, the substantive differences on policy were vanishingly small. There were big fights over judgment (the Iraq War) and the claim to history (the first African-American versus the first woman nominee). But on policy grounds, Clinton and Obama were all but the same candidate. …
This is relevant today, because falling in line behind Obama in 2008 required Clinton to swallow little more than personal pride. It did not require sacrifice of any dearly held principle or policy stance — only surrender of the idea that she would have made a better president.
“Sanders’ fight is bigger than the nomination”:
Beyond his personal hopes of becoming president, Sanders’ campaign has been about forcing a national political debate on whether Americans, like citizens in many developed countries, are entitled to health care as a right, to higher education that is free like high school, to paid time off to spend time with a newborn or a sick parent, etc.
As he told Rolling Stone in May:
“Our major success so far is in laying out a broad progressive agenda… the media doesn’t want to hear what I have to say…. And suddenly people are hearing things they never heard before. And that’s changing consciousness. So what we have got to do is to redefine who we can be as a nation. In a sense, what we are entitled to. What rights we are entitled to as humans. That’s the struggle. And we’re making a little bit of progress.”
Sanders could have fallen in line behind Clinton months ago when the delegate math overtook him. But for the democratic socialist, fighting through to California and New Jersey has been, first, about ensuring his ideas and ideals get the broadest public airing, and second, about building the delegate support necessary to ensure those proposals are integrated into the platform of the Democratic Party.
The convention is where this fight will play out. It will happen in public. It may not be pretty. But fighting in public over big policy disputes is not a bug, for Sanders — it’s a top feature of his candidacy.
“Sanders won’t [and possibly can’t] muzzle his movement”:
When Obama ran as a grassroots upstart, it felt like a movement. And for many of the activists involved, it was a movement. But that movement ended at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Once in office, Obama revealed his true colors as an establishment Democrat, trusting his first term to former top Bill Clinton deputies like Rahm Emanuel and Larry Summers. He neutered his grassroots machine by housing it inside the DNC, where it couldn’t pester conservative Democrats like Nebraska’s Ben Nelson to, for example, get on board with a public option for Obamacare.
Obama’s insurgent politics were above all an electioneering tactic—necessary for taking down the first-in-line establishment favorite, Hillary Clinton.
For Sanders in 2016, insurgency isn’t “a lane.” Sanders believes, deeply, that movement politics drive political change. To his worldview, grassroots politics is the key to raising money outside the corruption of super PACs (with which Clinton has made peace, at least for 2016). It is the vehicle to give voiceless people, whose economic interests are being ignored, political power to match their numbers and their needs. …
Sanders wants to reshape the Democratic Party as a people-funded, progressive, grassroots party. To Sanders’ mind, the Democratic Party needs to reconcile the reality of his movement — attracting 18,000 supporters at a single campaign stop — with the establishment’s clubby, comfortable world of doctors, lawyers, lobbyists and executives who throw themselves big-party dinners and cut checks for $10,000.
As he explained last month:
“There are two different worlds. So the question is: What happens when that 18,000 marches into that room… ? Will they be welcomed? Will the door be open? Will the party hierarchy say, ‘Thank you for coming in. We need your energy. We need your idealism. C’mon in!’? Or will they say, ‘Hey, we’ve got a pretty good thing going right now. We don’t need you. We don’t want you’? That’s the challenge that the Democratic Party faces. And I don’t know what the answer is.”
Taking the nominating fight to the convention reflects Sanders’ faith that a collision of these two worlds is a) necessary and desirable, and b) a process for achieving reconciliation and not chaos.
And “It ain’t over til it’s over (really, really over)”:
Clinton is now the presumptive nominee. But she isn’t the nominee proper—not just yet. As Sanders spokesman Michael Briggs insisted on Monday, “Our job from now until the convention is to convince those superdelegates that Bernie is by far the strongest candidate against Donald Trump.”
If Sanders’ talk of persuading superdelegates — who now back Clinton by a margin of nearly 10-to-1—sounds fantastical, well, politics is an ugly game, and shit happens.
It’s not difficult to imagine a “black swan” event—orthogonal to the dynamics of the race as we know it—that casts a cloud over Clinton’s candidacy, and appears to threaten a full term of President Donald Trump.
From the beginning, Sanders made a calculation not to hit Clinton about her “damn emails.” But those damn emails remain the focus of a federal investigation. What happens if Clinton gets indicted? Or what happens if a leaked video from one of Clinton’s paid Wall Street speeches contains a bomb like Mitt Romney’s infamous “47 percent” quip?
For now, Clinton appears a rock-solid candidate to defeat the Donald. But a sudden sea change in public opinion could still prompt the superdelegates to follow the tide—and nominate the man who polls still say would beat Trump by double digits. It’s not likely, but it’s far from unthinkable.
It’s June. The primaries are drawing to a close. Millions of Democrats are desperate for unity. But for reasons of policy, politics and personal ambition, Kumbaya may just have to wait.
—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.Your support matters…
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